FlyerTalk Forums - View Single Post - One Mile at a Time [OMaaT] discussions [merged]
Old Jul 22, 15, 11:51 am
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Austin, TX
Programs: AA EXP/3mm+, UA 1k/1mm+, National EE, IC Plat, Marriott Plat
Posts: 2,604
The reality is that Lucky and TPG and others are all selling a dream that is VERY hard to come close to. Even those of us who have been at this for a while (since the mid 1990s in my case), this is just a much different environment now than it used to be.

1) Miles are harder to earn. DL, UA, and WN have tied earning RDMs to spend. That means for anyone flying those two airlines, even people who fly a lot, unless they are flying exorbitant fares or only shorthops, they got a haircut. In the meantime, shopping portals have lost lots of avenues to earn (UR stopped featuring, IHG, etc as partners).

2) Miles are more difficult to use. Airlines have more data and can do better analysis on what flights are likely to sell out and which ones aren't. And with loadfactors at all time highs, fares at healthy levels, and airlines at record profit margins, there is very little incentive to hand out easy redemptions. I've been booking awards for 20 years and have never seen it this difficult. This hits people who are less schedule flexible (say with kids) especially hard.

3) Churning is dying. Chase? Dead. Amex? Dead. Citi? Not yet dead. The signup bonuses are bigger but they are no longer as frequently churnable. And that's for folks with spotless credit.

4) Taxes and surcharges are WAY higher than they used to be for "free" tix. "Taxes on BA for AUS-LHR-AUS? North of $700 per person. I flew UA for about the same as that on a discount fare last year. And there are so many airlines that now charge YQ.

5) The big winners are those who can use their corporate card to charge large or frequent purchases and reimburse or those who have the time and risk appetite to MS.

For the VAST MAJORITY of frequent fliers, MS is neither practical and too risky. Jobs where one can charge hundreds of thousands and get reimbursed don't grow on trees. The earning has become more difficult and the redemption is becoming more difficult, too.

Take a guy like me and let's assume I am single and unbound...I earn 400k RDMs per year from flying, another 100k from credit card spend, and another 100k from hotel stays.

How much does that buy me these days? Say 500k RDMs is 2-3 rt F trips on LH using UA MP and the 100k hotel points amounts to 2 nights at a nice property with most chains?

That doesn't even get close to covering dozens of F flights and 365 days of hotel annually. Clearly, most of Lucky's hotel stays are revenue stays and even a percentage of his flights have to be paid because one can't fly that much for free.

And that is my only beef. It makes it all sound so easy and it just isn't anymore. Granted, it used to be. But the dream they sell is only possible if someone puts a truckload of effort and time into it. Something that MOST people don't have because they have jobs, spouses, kids, friends, hobbies etc. That's why the article title is so misleading. Lucky must spend between $50k-$100k on travel each year.

The median household income in the US was $51,939 in 2013 and in real terms (adjusted for inflation), that number has been declining and is now lower than it was at any time before 1996.

So one concern I have is that folks put themselves into questionable territory by opening and attempting to manage a bucketload of credit cards, only to have to deal with poor availability, outrageously poor mileage valuation, exorbitant time required to string together itineraries and to understand the programs, all of whih could be a net loss to them in the long run.
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